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Real Men Drive Minivans

This IS NOT a sponsored post.

Never say never, ever…

I’ve sworn without hesitation that I would never drive a minivan. First I'd drive the biggest SUV on the planet or just tie a couple of red wagons to my waist to drag my family around. Or even worse, drive a station wagon, which by today’s standards isn’t a bad option at all. It would have been a terrible one a few years back. In a sentence, I find minvans to be the second-most distateful vehicles in the world, with maybe only Ford Pintos and Yugos vying for first place.

All of this changed two weeks ago when the opportunity arose for me to drive a Volkswagen Routan. I immediately raced to the website to see which vehicle was the Routan. I just knew it wasn’t that bus featured in those commercials featuring Brooke Shields. It wasn’t the Touareg, my current favorite of the VW line. I then hoped that maybe it was that little crossover I’ve been seeing here and there in the city. Nope. To my dismay that was the Tiguan. Seconds later, my worst fears had been realized.

I was going to be driving a minivan. The last nail in the yeah-it’s-over-I’m-officially-a-father-without-a-shred-of-manhood-left coffin. I thought about it for about ten minutes, shrugged my shoulders and said, “why not?”

Last Friday, on a eerily cool day which turned into a rainy mess by noon, my Pomegranate Red VW Routan SE was delivered. I was in a rush and didn’t have a chance to kick the tires, check under the hood or even look at it. I was taking my father-in-law to the hospital and we were late. I strapped my daughter’s car seat into the middle row, packed her and my in-laws in and took off not even knowing how to operate the windshield wipers.

By the end of the first block: I got the hang of the wipers, both front and back which provided great visibility even in the inclement weather coming down around us.

By the time I hit the parkway to the city: I was driving with one hand on the wheel, my left, and found myself leaning toward the center of the vehicle, resting my right elbow on the armrest --- a sign of my natural comfort behind the wheel.

Is this a V-6? I asked myself as I effortlessly passed cars and trucks on the road. And the vehicle held to the road in a way I never expected from a minivan or previously felt when riding as a passenger in friends’ minivans. Can we say, floating couches.

This doesn’t feel like a minivan, was my next thought.

Fit & Finish: I’m a fan of red. In fact my own car, a Toyota Rav4, is Salsa Red. The track jacket I was wearing when the Routan was delivered to me was red. The vehicle is devoid of the usual seams present on a minivan, particularly that big slot where the middle doors slide back. In the front, the grill is large and aggressive and coming off the rear roofline there’s an integrated spoiler. With 17-inch alloy wheels, the Routan has a presence of stregth that “unboxes” it from the rest of its competition.

Handling/Comfort: The Routan’s ride is firm, quiet and smooth, and from the driver’s seat allowing you to hear your wife, in-laws, children and whomever else you decide to fill its three rows with. The SE I drove came equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel that was hefty and responsive. The turning circle was larger than I anticipated, forcing me to become the king of 3-point turns for the weekend, but once again, I’ve never driven a minivan before. As the driver you sit high in the vehicle with a full view of the road from every vantage.

Performance: The 3.8 L V-6 made driving the Routan effortless. I was able to change lanes, accelerate out of trouble spots and the road without feeling like I needed to punch it. However on those few occasions when the guy in me overrode my sensibilities, the tires took a moment to grab during those moments when I did jackrabbit from a stopped position. The SE’s fuel economy is rated 16/23 city/highway mpg. I barely noticed the gas gauge moving during a two and a half hour drive with the family to South Jersey over the weekend. With a V-6 and vehicle of this size (121.12in wheelbase) and weight (4750 pounds), this is nothing to sneeze at.

Interior: There is more than enough headroom, legroom, shoulder room and space for a family of most sizes and everyone can chime in on the same conversation, or can go off into their separate corners as one might a house. The back seats flip down/fold flat into the floor providing ample cargo space.

There was a nice large sunroof overhead that allowed plenty of natural lighting to enter the cabin. The Routan’s dual power doors ride on smooth caterpillar tracks that make door opening and closing effortless. There’s a little beep that precedes the movement that alerts everyone in the vehicle that something important is getting ready to happen. The doors also came with power windows, another unexpected perk I wasn’t prepared for. There are power outlets interspersed from front to back allowing for all passengers to power up their iPods, cellphones and other electronic devices. The DVD players and DVD navigation is an option that wasn’t included on my vehicle. Stupid Thing A Guy Like Me Likes: the radio controls on the steering wheel and the brake and accelerator pedals that you can raise and lower in accordance with your leg length/comfort of driving. There’s a six speed automatic transmission with a slightly sticky manual shift mode. And my daughter’s favorite feature? The integrated sunshades in the power doors.

And last but not least, Safety: There are front and side airbags; a factory alarm system that comes complete with a panic button on the key fob; Hydraulic Braking Assist that helps you stop the car when you don’t apply enough pressure; Electronic Stabilization for those wet roads, tight turns and everyday evasive maneuvers that are required when you drive on the road with other people.

Why am I going to such great lengths to talk about this vehicle? It’s not because this is a sponsored post. Let me iterate this right now: I WAS NOT PAID OR EVEN ASKED TO WRITE THIS. There was no unspoken agreement with VW to write this. I was simply caught off guard by the experience and I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong --- wrong about the Routan, anyway. Besides, I've also dreamed of writing about a car. This is my first time trying.

I now must tip my hat to my blogging buddy, PJ Mullen, author of Real Men Drive Minivans. He’s right. Not that I ever thought he wasn’t. I just couldn’t say so myself. You may now call me, Routan Van Man.

At the end of our weekend, even my son, currently too cool for school and not impressed by much, casually admitted last night, “This doesn’t feel like a minivan.”

No, it did not.

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